Michael J. Haren, «The Naked Young Man: a Historians Hypothesis on Mark 14,51-52», Vol. 79 (1998) 525-531
The article starts from the premiss that the young man in question - whatever his subsequent symbolical value - was a historical person. It notes the proximity of his association with Jesus implied by the evangelists usage. It comments on the fact that in the sources for the Passion there is only one figure besides Jesus who was the object of a projected arrest by the authorities and one figure besides Jesus on whom an arrest is known to have been actually attempted. Suggesting that the historian dealing with secular sources would be prompted to consider an identification accordingly, the article examines the implications.
and the young man at the tomb, between humiliation and exaltation 3. Fleddermann, also suggestively, sees an antithesis between flight and acceptance. Although, in view of the preceding pericope, a type of the fleeing disciple is perhaps superfluous, the young man, by this reading, represents Marks judgement on the events, a "signature" summarising his theology 4. Other exegesis would insist on the symbolism of Christian initiation 5. Such attempts to make sense of overtly unpromising material may help to explain, if conservatism and an eye for vivid detail are considered insufficient explanation in themselves, why Mark has preserved the episode. However, the rôle that it so reticently plays could hardly warrant its invention, either by Mark or by an intermediate tradition, even if that tradition had glimmerings of the theology that can thus be discerned in his presentation. Vanhoye concludes his own exegesis by making the point explicitly : "Reconnaître celle-ci ne conduit nullement est-il besoin de le préciser? à mettre en doute la réalité de lincident raconté" 6.
If the inconsequential or, at best, decidedly enigmatic character of the episode itself eloquently pleads in support of the young mans existence as a historical personage 7, his identity is beyond the reach of consensus. The theory that he was the evangelist has given ground in view of the difficulties in supposing that the author of Marks Gospel was an eye-witness 8. But while that solution is felt to be unduly constraining, alternative solutions that would make the young man simply a bystander, even if one who later became attached to the movement 9, face their own difficulty. The difficulty here is that Mark 14,51, if read literally, strongly implies a close association between the young man and Jesus. As Vanhoye pointed out, the verb used is not the akolouqein by which Mark usually describes even the disciples following of Jesus but the intensified sunakolouqein, of which there is only one other occurrence in Mark and, outside of Mark, one more in the New Testament (Luke 23,49) 10. In Marcan terms, the young man associates with Jesus in the way that Peter, James and James brother John are particularly distinguished in being allowed to attend at the awakening of Jairus daughter (Mark 5,37). By analogy with Luke, he associates as did the women who came with Jesus from Galilee and remained at the crucifixion. On this model, one would read "A certain young man accompanied him". This statement of the case however raises questions that, in the absence of an answer to them, a translator cannot be altogether faulted for wishing to avoid. Who was the "certain young man" and how does he qualify for the peculiar contact with which Marks usage seems to invest sunhkolouqein?